Course Notes – Week 4 – Swarming & Feeding

Week 4 – Swarming & Feeding

Swarming – 

Why – creates a new entity and colonies.

Looks like – huge cloud of bees and make lots of noise – constant hum. The will initially settle near the hive and then a few hours later they will find a permanent home.

Prime Swarm – this is the original queen with new bees. Usually April – July and it’s when a new queen cell has been capped.

Caste Swarm – a new queen and has left the hive with some bees. Usually after the prime swarm.

Triggers – overcrowding with lack of space, ventilation, too many nurse bees or too many wax (means they are bored) or lack of queen pheromone.

Important to recognise 3 types of queen cells.

Emergency queen cells – if there is no queen then the worker bees have 4 days to convert a cell into an emergency queen cell (queen cell on front of comb). DO NOT KILL OR DESTROY. Close up the hive and leave for 3 weeks. Note – there can be lots of these.

Old Queen – supercede the queen as she is not working as well. The comb will have been eaten around it. Leave it to get on with it.

Good Young Queen – queen cups develop. See them hanging down. These are done for swarming and will be at the bottom of the comb. It caught early enough them destroy. If there are no spare cells in the frames then there is a risk of swarming.

Prevent –

inspect 7 day intervals in swarming season and aim to find queen cells before they are capped.

There will be an increase in drones.

Put a spare super on to give more space (or 2nd brood box).

Ventilation – not necessary in mesh floors.


Catch them in a cardboard box. Shame the swarm or spray with water and they fall towards the cardboard box. Make sure there is a cloth over the box for them to fall into.

Leave them on the cloth until dusk. Tie sheet around the box and take to the hive.

Put sheet in front of hive and then bees walk up sheet to the hive.

Food & Feeding

Forages bring in pollen, nectar, water and resin to the hive.

Nectar – combination of sucrose and water (can be 80% water). It is converted into honey. It is passed to worker bees and put into cells. The water content needs to be reduced to 17-19%.

Bees prefer high sugar content and will ignore apples trees for oilseed rape.

Colony need 50kg of honey p year so need to up 200kg. Each bee will collect 20-100mg of nectar per flight).

Need to leave 17kg of honey to get them through the winter. They produce 27-68kg surplus honey.

Pollen – it has protein including fats and vitamins. they used the pollen to feed the larvae and creates brood food. Pollen is stored around the brood areas. If there is lots of pollen then it is a good sign of a healthy queen and hive. Need 25kg pollen each year.

Resin – use resin to make propolysis (bee glue). It blocks gaps in have and is mildly antiseptic.

Water – used to dilute honey to make it usable. Need water supply near the hive.

To feed –  get a bucket and put sugar in. Mark the bucket on outside and keep gradually adding water until it reaches the mark on the bucket.



Course Notes – Week 3 – Where & Manipulation

Week 3 – Where & Manipulation

  • Where to put the hive:
  • It needs to be a semi permanent place as if it needs moving it can move less that 3ft or more than 3 miles. If it is moved more than 3ft then there is a risk that they won’t find the hive. You can move the greater distance but gradually with 3ft intervals.
  • Weight – 30lb initially but will end up being 150lb.
  • Base- Stable base that won’t sink into the ground. Ideal is paving slab. Height so that the top of the brood box is the same height as clenched fist when standing up straight. Pallets, milk crates. Advisable to have base for 2 hives so use the space to put brood boxes/supers down when working on the hive. You will work on the hive from the back. The front needs to point in the direction of where you want the bees to fly out to forage. Pointing East is ideal
  • Needs to be bright and light – queen start to play earlier in the season.
  • Need to have access from a wheelbarrow.
  • In an area where food is available – variety of types of flowers,
  • Water source – ditch, dirty stagnant puddles
  • Don’t point front of hive in direct of where lots of people will be. Bees needs to get above people. Screen – around sides and front – 3ft away – can help them fly up.
  • Wind direction – so now blow into the hive.
  • Avoid frost pockets (bottom of hills near trees).
  • Not underneath trees – tree roots will be under hive so roots will move the hive slightly and bees end up using more propolis. Also tress will drip on the hive.
  • Not under high voltage electric cables – bees will pick up electric signals/field and makes them angry. They can pick up underground cables as well. Need a distance of 100 yards. Phone cables – not idea but not as bad.
  • Animals – very few attack hives. Badges are the only possibility. Deer – will rub their horns on the hive. Chickens – not running around the hive as will peck at the hive and the bees. Most home pets are not an issue.
  • Flooding – avoid such areas as bees die during floods.
  • Footpaths – you have a duty not the cause a nuisance.
  • Distance from home – 10ft is the closest but point away from the house.
  • Mowing lawn – likely to attract bees but wear veil if mowing close (less than 10ft)
  • Wind – need different orientation of hives if have several in a row. Wind will cause a little bit of drifting and may cause bees to go to a different hive.
  • Frames direction – front to back is the cold way. side to side is the warm way. Doesn’t matter – just whatever is more comfortable.
  • In windy conditions – put a risk or stone on top.


  • Best to do on warm calm day – not on a windy and cold day
  • Put veil on after smoker lit.
  • Have more than one way to light a smoker.
  • keep puffing smoker so they don’t get out. Puff smoke in entrance and wait.
  • At The Hive Entrance book – useful and free to download.
  • Roof off – if bees are coming through the hole on crownboard then smoke them.
  • Put smoke in super .
  • Once super off – drift smoke across queen excluder. Take off excluder – check queen not in it, Do this over the brood camber. Place excluder leaning against the hive front. If bees coming out of brood box then drift smoke over.
  • Look for – queen, eggs, swarming (queen cells) enough store of honey and pollen, enough space in brood box for laying eggs and nectar, disease. Look on both sides of frames. Must put frames exactly the same way and order. Keep a hive record of what seen.

First inspection

Installing a Nuc



Course Notes – Week 2 – Biology of a honey bee.

Week 2 – Biology of a honey bee. 

Bees can see colour violet,  blue, green and are able to see in ultraviolet.

They have ‘plan polarisation – this enables them to find water, It also enabled them to just look at tiny pattern of sky and able to instantly know where the sun is.

Stomach – called honey stomach as this is where they store the nectar.

Feeding – eat sugar and nectar.

The collect pollen all over the their body and use their legs to get back to hind leg – their pollen basket.

Queen – has  a large abdomen and will only sting other queens. Lives for 3-5 years and derived from the same egg as a worker but is fed on royal jelly. Cells are large to give more space to grow.

Drone – large eye and chunky thorax. Live for 50 days and die once mated with queen. They are kicked out of the hive in the winter.

Worker – they live for 6 weeks in summer and 6 months in winter. They spend 3 weeks in the hive, 3 weeks foraging and flying.

Brood – need to be looking for new eggs as this shows that the queen has been there s the past 3 days. Look for cells to have larvae. Multiple eggs in cells is not good.

Need to have half brood open, half brood capped. If lots of eggs then probably creating queens. If lots of capped but not many eggs then queen is not laying.

Wax – nectar makes wax. Max honey production – able to feed lots so that they are able to produce wax easier. .

Smoking – this simulates a fire and calms them. Promotes them to feed up on the food in the hive – keeps them occupied and if they are full of food then harder to sing.

Bee space – 6-9 mm wide

Moving hive – less than 3 feet or more then 3 miles.

Replace the brood every 3 years.